Here in New Zealand, I’ve just been to one of the first events of the Global Day of Action on Military Spending, a panel of speakers organised by Peace Movement Aotearoa.

The Stockholm Independent Peace Research Institute figures for 2011 military expenditure have just been released, there’s a summary available here.

Edwina Hughes from PMA spoke about the trillions of dollars spent globally on arms by all militaries of the world’s nations. She was followed by Anne Else from CPAG, who spoke about the effect a small proportion of the NZ MOD spend would have on the outcomes for alleviating poverty in this country. In NZ, we spend a bit over $NZ 3 billion each year, and as has been reported in the news today, not all of that spending is considered, wise or even fully accountable. Then we heard from Tara D’Sousa, International Programmes Manager, Caritas Aotearoa New Zealand, who spoke about the failure of NZ to keep up with it’s commitment to meet 0.7% of GNI as a target for overseas development assistance, which is a UNDP target.

THIS WEEK ON BACK BENCHES: Watch Wallace Chapman, Damian Christie, the Back Benches Panel and special guests discuss the week’s hottest topics!

WHAT THE FRACK?: Fracking – the mining process which blasts a mixture of water, sand and chemicals deep into the earth to extract gas or petroleum. We’ve been doing it for decades but now there is Parliamentary inquiry into process. The Greens are calling for a moratorium on fracking until the inquiry is over but the Government says that’s not necessary. It’s controversial-the practice has been blamed for groundwater contamination and earthquakes. Is fracking safe? Is there enough oversight? Oil and Gas exports bring about $3 billion to the economy. Can we say no to the practice?

PAID PARENTAL LEAVE: A bill by Labour’s Sue Moroney says 6 months(26 weeks) rather than the current 3.5 months/14 weeks. The Government says that is unaffordable. Do we need more time for the country to recover financially? Key has left the door open for the future – but will our country EVER be able to afford extended leave? Is it ever a good idea to borrow money for additional entitlements? Or are there benefits, bigger than financial to consider?

Join us for a night of LIVE pub politics from the Backbencher Pub: Wednesday, 18th of April. Our Panel: Green Party MP Gareth Hughes, Labour MP Annette King, and National MP Katrina Shanks.

Yes, I am having a busy week, so I just stole that again from Wal & Damian’s site PR.

Do come down, last week was the Young Pollies episode which was a very sardine-packed session (I left it to them & stayed home, I’ll admit) – footage here. Wilbur Townsend represented the Young Greens admirably, despite his own personal misgivings before the filming. Student loans policy got a good thrashing, and one or more young pollies got themselves booed by the crowd – but I’m not saying whom, you’ll have to watch it yourselves.

Pub politics, every week until mid-year when the channel goes off air … boo hiss, TVNZ!

Our public service broadcasting is a backbone of intelligent viewing in NZ, it’s certainly not worth expecting the USA to provide intelligent programming that is affordable and can be broadcast free-to-air, so this is yet another decision made at the expense of our own jobs, our own sovereignty and reflecting our own communities, in all their diversity, on our own screens.

I will become an even more averse consumer of broadcasting after this happens; even now I’m more likely to show up and participate in the filming of Back Benches, than I am to watch an episode of anything else that TVNZ broadcasts across all it’s channels. I consider that the standard of programmes broadcast has fallen substantially in the past decade, and that New Zealand residents are getting ripped off by the decisions that favour cheap, rubbishy ‘reality’ show programmes over drama or comedy that could be keeping NZ-based writers, actors and production crews in work, and in the country.

If HBO is the only place where we can see award-winning kiwi comedy, then how does that make us look?

C’mon TVNZ, pull your socks up and keep our local content on our local stations. Or watch your audience decline to the point where those fat salaries just cannot continue to be dished out to those who make the decisions….

Update:
The show ran with Meteria Turei instead of Gareth Hughes (who was ill with a sore throat), and was unintentionally funny every time Katrina Shanks responded to a question with some phrase or other that had been vetted by her minders, but didn’t seem to answer the question.

Wallace got in a few good shots there, too, which left her doing the four-year-old “the grown-ups are making fun of me” pout. Go on, watch the episode, I kid you not, she really did that!

Annette King actually impressed me when the paid parental leave topic got a second airing, but she was no match for Meteria, who whomped the pair of them on every topic.
The episode is here, and well worth a look.

It’s Tuesday already, my how this week has flown!
Which means tomorrow night is Back Benches filming live at the Back Bencher pub in Molesworth St, downtown Welli.

Green Party MP Steffan Browning, Labour MP Charles Chauvel, New Zealand First MP Andrew Williams, and National MP Tim Macindoe are this week’s panel line-up, and the topics under debate will be –
HOUSING CRUNCH?: Are we in a Housing Boom or a Housing Crunch? Perhaps it depends on whether you’re a renter or an owner? Should you buy or rent? Which is more affordable? Rents are on the rise and affordable housing is becoming more scarce. Why are rents going up? Does there need to be a limit on how much a landlord can raise the rent? Is this a local council issue? Should this be a national government issue? Or should we let the marketplace decide what it can bear?

SAVE THE DOLPHINS: Just 55 little (adult) Maui Dolphins are left. Is it time for urgent action to save the endangered animal? Can they be saved? Do we save endangered animals no matter the cost? Is a sanctuary or a net ban the solution? And do we need to have a big look at our fishing industry? Do you eat sustainably or do you throw a little Snapper or Bluefin Tuna on the grill?

[Yeah, I’m shameless, that was pasted straight off TV7’s website. ]

The episode is up on TVNZ on-demand here.

Co-incidentally, there was a pretty big march through town today by supporters of Maui’s Dolphins being protected.
While they stopped to yell outside MAF (ably MC’d by Pete Bethune) I got this pic:

Some staunch painted laydees marching for Maui's Dolphins

Some staunch painted laydees marching for Maui's Dolphins

Update:
FB scandal has broken out over the painted ladies pix put up on albums by photographers associated with Forest & Bird/WWF/Greenpeace et al, covered here by Coley Tangerina.
More on the campaign to save Maui’s dolphins here.

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